Ganvie: The ‘Venice of Africa’.. (kinda.)

A city built on the water is familiar to us all in the Western world. Venice, Italy is a watery, romantic wonderland that lures lovers of ancient scenery from around the world.

Ganvie, found a few miles outside my home city of Cotonou, is like that. But instead of  gondolas and hot Italians, we have huts built on sticks and a African tour guide driving our fuming motor boat while singing some local African song about fish. It was still kind of romantic, though.

Literally meaning “the collection of those who have found peace at last”, Ganvie was founded over 400 years ago. It’s commonly believed that the Tofinu people settled here to escape slavers who came from the Fon tribe and were not allowed to fight in water for traditional reasons (or perhaps could not swim).

With a population of roughly 30,000 people, today  Ganvie is a village where most income is based on fishing and tourism. These little one’s let me take their picture and then demanded 500 CFA (about $1 USD.)

Everything that one might find on land seemed to exist in this water environment. They had churches…

… and restaurants, school houses, big houses, little houses…

..and plenty of places to shop for local crafts.

I really loved taking the opportunity to capture some of their artifacts.. like this dual-gendered symbol of power:

And other things found in West African water villages…

I love this shot below of the hand-woven shrimping baskets used by villages to catch local fare.


And of course, got some shots of the lovely people that I traveled with. Below is Andrea, my ‘soul mate’ a.k.a. best friend in country.

And Rebecca, who is currently completingher PhD at The Fletcher School at Tufts. She was here to do a short-term consultancy with Catholic Relief Services.

We had a really great day seeing more of what Benin has to offer. :)

Thanks for reading!







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  1. Doug says:

    Very cool. Sometime I’ll take you to Thailand–there is a similar community on the other side of the river from Bangkok…

    Love to ya,


    P.S. Bring me back an artifact of some kind–I’ve never been to Africa.

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